Envisioning After Dismantling Notes by Nancy Slavin of Clackamas County SURJ

Editor’s Note: On March 2, Respond to Racism cohosted a community forum with Clackamas County SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) and the Clackamas County Equity Coalition. Below are notes from the forum captured by SURJ’s Nancy Slavin.

Envisioning after Dismantling: The Past, Present, and Future of DEI in Clackamas County

Public Forum held on March 2, 2024 in Lake Oswego and online.

Watch at Respond to Racism’s YouTube video page: 

Transcript available on sidebar

Notes by Nancy Slavin, Clackamas County SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice)

Questions up on the big screen as people are entering:

Slide 1

What infrastructure (i.e. funding, physical space, personnel, policies) exists to support DEI work in Clackamas County? What do we need? What models are out there for work that centers the most impacted communities?

Slide 2

What do grassroots orgs on the ground need?

Where are we collaborating and what do those collaborations look like?

Slide 3

Who do you go to when facing discrimination in your community?

Where are the affinity groups in your community?

Slide 4

Are there issues that DEI (whether at the county, city, school district or corporate level) has been afraid to touch?

How do we actively prevent the pitfalls that come from white-centered DEI?

Slide 5

What actions are organizations in the room either undertaking or planning and how can people get involved? 

What actions will YOU commit to joining?

Bruce Poinsette, ED of Respond to Racism, welcomes everyone and emphasizes how we are here because of the, yes Dismantling of the Equity and Inclusion Office, but additionally here to build infrastructure, map power, understand context, and get strategic as other players seem to want to remove words and policies like “equity,” affirmative action, DEI, etc.

Nancy Slavin, leadership team of Clackamas Co. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), gives a short presentation on the history of the Clack Co. Equity and Inclusion Office through a slideshow of the timeline starting from 2004 through 2024.

Bruce discusses Clackamas County Administrator Gary Schmidt’s memo to employees, reposted at KGW’s site (scroll down). If you have questions, you can email CSchmidt@clackamas.us.

Bruce cited the recent decision of Clackamas County Commissioners to terminate an agreement designed to help provide social services in North Clackamas, the Wichita Center. If you discourage people from even getting involved, you’re creating a culture of disenfranchisement and impacting people with very real threats of violence (c.f., vandalizing of the CC Democrats office last fall). Also, giving the example of what’s happening at the state level and the recriminalization of drugs, “it gets worse for the most vulnerable.” Also, Bruce mentions how Clackamas County is losing people of color who’ve been leaders and don’t last because of the hostile working environment and literally cannot speak in public because of impending legal actions, which is also why this forum did not have any speakers scheduled to speak. 

How do we get to the difficult conversations and have real conversation so we can move forward. Brought up the first question on the slides. (~32:48) Floor open for discussion. 

  • H3S Health, housing, and human services is working to center equity within the county. Sharing that the folks there are doing the good work.
  • CCEC (Clackamas County Equity Coalition) is trying to leverage our collective power to do more equity work, to map more power. But often Clack Co. feels like 2 or 3 counties because of the geographical size. We’re missing voice at the county leve (i.e., Sandy, Mulino, Damascus, etc. Rural areas need more representation.
  • Need more space to get together frequently. Libraries are a good place for gathering. Candidate training schools are important, run for office!
  • Work on infrastructure that is based in the community, so not so much the physical pieces of infrastructure, we need to face the reality that working with our county government isn’t a great use of time right now, but for example, working on voting at the local level is important.
  • Metro public parks are trying to see their spaces as welcoming for all, Clackamas County is part of this.
  • Thinking about DEI as a multi-intersectional topic. Work to not get overwhelmed, and ask what did I do today? One step at a time. Also, America is good at selling the dream but not good at understanding the historicity, can’t even say the word “privilege” to our neighbor, but also privilege is dependent on us seeing the world beyond our own lens. 
  • Critical to protect the Leaders in Equity Inclusion Council (LEIDC). 
  • Caution that the county may rely on citizen and grassroot groups to do the work they need done and do our groups know about the funding that is out there and get the training to access those funds easily and efficiently.
  • Collective group needs to review commissioners about what their values and policies are ahead of the elections. Complain in a formal way. Go to the county level and make a formal complaint and show them that we’re not going anywhere.
  • We need more people, showing up in all the communities where you are, e.g., churches, labor unions. Also suggest how the laws and policies discourage nonprofits from being political.

What do grassroots groups need and where are we collaborating?

CORE (Committee on Racial Equity) has meetings and will take events and have a place for those. Contact: Amy Trieu She, her, hers , Civic Engagement and Outreach Coordinator


amy.trieu@oregonmetro.gov. Do keep in mind that Metro does not serve all parts of Clackamas County.

Building Bridges in West Linn, works with schools. 

Clackamas Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)

Suggestion for grassroot groups is to work with other groups that do have staff, e.g., Here Together. 

LEDIC – figure out ways to communicate and coordinate with the groups who do work so our events and programming doesn’t overlap. 

Hacienda CDC is building new units in Clackamas County and has worked in outlying areas like Mollala, Boring, etc. Building spaces where community members feel safe is important – they have outreach workers and can help cross over with local organizing groups.  

Student groups like the Lake Oswego Youth Empowerment Committee (or through RtR website) working to create spaces for kids of color – or the Asian-American Student Union (Asian Cultural Festival April 20 at LOHS). Noted that there is not a lot of rural students organizing.

No Place for Hate in Oregon City, student-led change.

We also can call the Department of Justice’s Bias Hotline, (even though sometimes the call back comes around to the people doing the work).

Clackamas County Equity Coalition is hosting a presentation on April 18 with DOJ Hotline, so come to that! Registration is here

Comment about how equity work that impacts people of color and people with disabilities is more incumbent on white people and able-bodied people to show up to do. Clackamas County has terrible infrastructure around actual transportation. Also, know your groups and demographics, rather than lumping groups together, so learn about your own affinity groups and then organize from there. We need more people of color in positions of power and more white people can step back and allow more people of color to access places of power.

Are there issues that DEI (whether at the county, city, school district or corporate level) has been afraid to touch? How do we actively prevent the pitfalls that come from white-centered DEI?

  • Retaining teachers of color is hard in the schools.
  • Health care – circle around trauma stories and academic talking, but we need more coming together conversations where people “do” actual actions. What is our next action oriented. 
  • Anti-Black racism is important to discuss as a specific issue because racism “hits Black people differently.”
  • Accessibility and disability get left out of the conversation constantly and also looking at those issues continually with an intersection lens.
  • Capitalism is also a huge barrier to actual inclusion and equity.
  • Reticence of to recognize the ways the Christian church has not been willing to talk about their own culpability. 
  • Also, the fear of touching “whiteness” as a topic and how to work with shame and whitewashing and performative. Deep and painful and necessary work. 
  • Confirmation of the comment that there’s a lot of talk, not a lot of action (in that case specifically in the schools).
  • Unite Oregon has a Clackamas County chapter. But education is poor and misinformation and misinformation is hard to distinguish which is which. Also, what are the external pressures for people getting involved in DEI work publicly, many people quitting (no retention). Translation issues exist for many communities and do not have the infrastructure to do that translation services.
  • One barrier is our dominant culture reticence to look at “acceptance from a standpoint of liberation” for all and see how it brings joy and relief from shame. See that government is a name for people of the community. Teach our community to “boss up.” (listen to this part, very good, around 1:42.)
  • Need for the creation of workforce equity plans to weave DEIA principles into workspaces. How do we get the employee resources groups empowered and in the fight as well as the AFSCME union.

What actions are groups taking and what actions will you take?

Healthcare for All Oregon is doing work to close equity gap in healthcare.

West Linn Alliance and Building Bridges (started because of Michael Fesser case, Black man wrongly arrested in West Linn) is rebuilding right now with the school district (West Linn/Wilsonville). Show up with other groups as much as possible and stay in communication better with all the little groups. Write letters, make complaints, distribution list to and from other communities.

Action to take should be to make sure people know what’s going on around DEI and the commissioners in our county. Which 5 people can you talk to and how can you reach out?
Join the Clackamas County Equity coalition! We need more capacity on our steering committee. Meetings are the Second Friday of the month on zoom at 2-3 p.m. We plan our Quarterly Educational Events and network, share resources, share action needs. Email clackcoequityco@gmail.com to join in!